MIAMI (AFP) - An arms maker in Florida is engraving Christian symbols on its assault rifles, in a marketing ploy denounced by a Muslim group as fomenting "hatred, division and violence".
The "Cruzado" assault rifle is inscribed with the cross of the Knights Templar, a religious order that fought in the Crusades, and a psalm from the Bible - features that its maker, Spike's Tactical, says are intended to keep the weapons out of Muslim hands.
"We wanted to make sure we built a weapon that would never be able to be used by Muslim terrorists to kill innocent people or advance their radical agenda," said Ben Thomas, spokesman for the company, which is based in Apopka, Florida.
The Christian symbols would prevent the guns from being shipped to the Middle East, he said, claiming the rifles have been a hit with the company's customers. The arms maker's website hails it as "The Crusader Rifle" carrying a price tag of US$1,395 (S$1,955).
The advertisment says "Due to overwhelming media response - Crusader rifles are taking up to 2 weeks to ship".
Mr Thomas said: "We sold out of rifles in the first 72 hours and there's a backlog of several weeks." But he declined to say how many have sold.
The Florida branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement decrying "this manufacturer's fancy new gun".
"This is just another shameful marketing ploy intended to profit from the promotion of hatred, division, and violence," it said.
Mr Thomas, asserting he was not a bigot, insisted: "If they think the word of Jesus Christ causes hatred, they don't understand Jesus Christ."